Sherdog Preview: PRIDE Open-Weight Grand Prix

Mark Hunt vs. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka

May 5, 2006
HUNT: New Zealand native Mark Hunt (Pictures) is a kickboxer with a 4-1 record in MMA. The former W.K.B.F. Australian Champion began his K-1 career by winning the K-1 Oceania Grand Prix 2000 and a bout at the K-1 Oceania Revenge. He lost a decision to veteran Jerome Le Banner at the ’00 Grand Prix in Nagoya and won the K-1 Oceania 2001 Annihilis eight-man tournament.

Mark had two major decision losses in kickboxing, to Ernesto Hoost (Pictures) and Ray Sefo (Pictures), but then he came back strong by beating Jerome Le Banner (with a right hook KO), Stefan Leko (Pictures) (unanimous decision) and Francisco Filho (unanimous decision) to win the K-1 World Grand Prix 2001. He also carries kickboxing losses to Mirko Filipovic (Pictures) and Jerome Le Banner.

Hunt was originally supposed to face Don Frye (Pictures) in a kickboxing bout at the PRIDE Shockwave show in 2002 but was later replaced by the aforementioned Le Banner.

In his MMA debut, Hunt showed real potential against Hidehiko Yoshida (Pictures) at PRIDE Critical Countdown ‘04. Once the pair went to the mat, Yoshida’s ground mastery took over. Five minutes into the bout Mark was in the grip of the judo Olympian and tapped out to an armbar. At PRIDE 28, Hunt battled UFC veteran Dan Bobish (Pictures) and stopped the 300-pounder with strikes late in the first round.

Mark competed at the PRIDE: Shockwave show on New Year’s Eve ’04. There he was a last-minute replacement for an injured Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures) and took on reigning PFC middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva (Pictures). It was a striker’s feast with the combatants going toe-to-toe for much of the bout. Many feel the win should’ve gone to the smaller man (Silva) but Hunt took a split decision victory over the Brazilian superman.

One year later, at PRIDE: Shockwave ’05 on New Years Eve, Hunt faced Mirko Filipovic (Pictures). The two had met under kickboxing rules years ago but this time it would be MMA. Both fighters had something to prove and their performances confirmed it. The match went the distance and it was Hunt who took the split decision victory. He also KO’d boxer Yosuke Nishijima (Pictures) in the third round at PRIDE 31.

KOHSAKA: Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (Pictures) (or “TK” as he’s known) is a 4th Dan in judo and a submission fighter training as part of the Alliance/A-Square Gym. He has also been training at the Yonekura Gym in Japan, a boxing haven and hotbed of talent in Japan’s professional boxing circuit.

TK a 19-10-1 record in MMA. He defeated Egan Inoue (Pictures) by decision in the Lumax Cup: Tournament of J ’95 but much of TK’s early experience took place in the RINGS promotion. He scored wins over Maurice Smith (Pictures) in ’96 at the RINGS Budokan Hall show and Mikhail Illoukhine (Pictures) at RINGS Budokan ’97.

However these victories were during the days when the promotion was known for offering “works” or bouts with predetermined outcomes. Kohsaka’s fought 12 consecutive bouts for the RINGS promotion including matches with Kiyoshi Tamura (Pictures), Volk Han, Willie Peeters and future training partner Frank Shamrock (Pictures) (a half-hour war well worth watching).

Many fans will remember Kohsaka for going toe-to-toe with Kimo Leopoldo (Pictures) in what was one of the highlights at UFC 16. TK went on to defeat Pete Williams in a questionable bout in Brazil and then fought Bas Rutten (Pictures) in Rutten’s Octagon debut at UFC 18. A decision was just 45 seconds away but Bas put the hurt to TK and ended any chance of leaving it to the judges.

Kohsaka returned to beat Gladiator Training Academy fighter Tim Lacjik and made his next appearance at UFC 23/Japan 2 where he felt the sting of Pedro Rizzo (Pictures)’s heavy hands. Tsuyoshi went back and forth between the UFC and RINGS throughout 1999. Then he made the RINGS promotion home again and raised the level of competition. His opponents included Gilbert Yvel (Pictures) (TK’s 1-2 with him), Christopher Haseman and current PFC heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures), UFC light heavyweight title contender Renato Sobral (Pictures) (TK lost a decision) and former UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight champion Randy Couture (Pictures) (TK lost a decision). He even took former PRIDE heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Pictures) to a draw.

A return to the UFC happened in ’02 when he was brought in last-minute to face Ricco Rodriguez (Pictures) and took the former champion into the second round. He lost a decision to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (Pictures) in the DEEP promotion and beat Ricardo Morais (Pictures) in a MMA bout on a New Japan Pro Wrestling card.

It was then that TK began his run with Pancrase. He beat Ron Waterman (Pictures) to claim the super heavyweight King of Pancrase title. TK made his PFC debut at PRIDE Bushido 6 in a rematch with Fedor and he lasted 10 minutes with the champ before the doctor stepped in.

Back in Pancrase Kohsaka lost a decision (after being poked in the eye) to Mike Kyle (Pictures) in October of ’05 and the super heavyweight King of Pancrase title is currently listed as “vacant.”

He earned his spot in the PFC Absolute tournament with an impressive first round stoppage of Brazilian Top team leader Mario Sperry (Pictures) at PRIDE 31 last February.

MY PICK: This is a tougher call than I first thought. TK can hang on his feet and has been training boxing on a regular basis. Coming from RINGS his submissions are obviously superior to Hunt’s ground game. Kohsaka is the best submission fighter Mark has faced since Yoshida (his only MMA loss) and it is safe to say TK has a better MMA submission game due to years of experience. And look at everyone TK has fought. There are lots of tough guys on his list. Hunt might be in trouble here. There’s no way Kohsaka is going to go toe-to-toe with a pro kickboxer like Hunt so you can expect a shoot early. He will get taken down. If he stays down, it could end there. I’m going with TK in an upset. Kohsaka by submission (some type of arm lock) in the first round.
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